The hype surrounding Tennessee's five-star freshman receiver cranked from dull roar to full outcry during the Vols' spring game on Saturday.

Josh Malone broke off the line in the first quarter, took a vicious cut and found himself in prime position against fellow freshman D'Andre Payne.

The true freshman receiver from Gallatin, Tenn., then turned up field, left Payne in his rearview and crossed into Neyland Stadium's end zone for a score.

But he wasn't done. His day was just beginning.

After slipping past Payne again and wrangling in a 6-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter, Malone put the cherry on his breakout party with a 79-yard catch and score, the third from the day from the arm of sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

The 6-foot-3 freshman finished with six catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns.

Malone and UT's receivers delivered explosion to an offense that ranked as the SEC's second-worst passing offense (164.9 yards per game) last year.

"Josh (Malone) has had a productive spring, but I thought he really stepped it up today, even in the quarterback challenge," UT head coach Butch Jones said. "Josh has pretty much being doing that all spring.

"... He can be as good as he wants to be."

Jones' claim appeared to be on point.

Most of Malone's teammates weren't even slightly surprised by his gaudy stat line.

"He played very well," sophomore cornerback Cameron Sutton said. "He's a very hard worker, and he's hard on himself.

"We expect a lot out of him, and he expects a lot out of himself. He's going to help us a lot."

But Malone wasn't the only receiver to steal the spotlight.

Sophomore Marquez North, fresh off a Freshman All-SEC selection last season, turned in five catches for 106 yards and a touchdown – a 50-yard pitch-and-catch from senior Justin Worley – of his own.

Junior Cody Blanc reeled in a 19-yard score from freshman quarterback hopeful Riley Ferguson in the game's waning seconds as well.

Fourteen players, in total, caught at a pass.

"Honestly, it's a quarterback's best friend when you have people like Marquez, Josh Malone and Jason Croom," Dobbs said, "just bodies who you can throw the ball up and know that they're going to come down with it is huge for us, especially in the red zone."

They came down with it on Saturday. A lot.

The 514 passing yards, albeit in scrimmage form, would have marked the first time UT eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark since 2012.

"I left here a year ago very concerned about our throw game and our ability to make splash plays, and obviously that's in the past," Jones said. "I'm very encouraged about what I see, but we've got a long way to go."

Despite struggling against North on multiple occasions, including on his 50-yard score, Sutton said the secondary has grown stronger from facing the wide outs in practice.

"Our receivers are very versatile," Sutton said. "They all bring different things, whether it's being physical, or stretching the field or being a big body.

"Our receiving core is built around that, and it makes us a better secondary."